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2016 50 Book Challenge - Page 211

post #3151 of 3181
41 Brett Whiteley Art, Life and the Other Thing by Ashleigh Wilson A biography of the " Enfant Terrible" of Australian contemporary art. Interesting thought provoking but ultimately tragic. Was good seeing the Surry Hills studio museum recently which has a number of works mentioned in the book. Getting up close and personal in particular to Alchemy after reading of the story of its genesis. One of his best works IMHO. The story is littered with an assorted cast of movers and shakers, cultural icons and a of SOB's one in particular who I happen (past tense) to know. Great entertaining read, both in terms of the commentary on the art and the life of Brett Whitley who is still a highly contentious figure in the Australian cultural landscape.
post #3152 of 3181
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoffrey Firmin View Post

41 Brett Whiteley Art, Life and the Other Thing by Ashleigh Wilson

I heard an interview with Wilson on ABC a while ago, which included some audio of Whiteley talking about his heroin addiction. I added the book tom y wish list then; need to get around to it soon.
post #3153 of 3181
66. I, Ripper- Stephen Hunter

Fictional fabrication of the famous 19th century London serial killer. The book moved along rather slowly until the last 50 pages.

Nowhere near as good as the Swagger novels. I wouldn't recommend it.
post #3154 of 3181

Sorry fellas, been in the jungle, couldn't risk taking books into constant downpours

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. Hicksville
2. Slaughterhouse 5
3. Firefight
4. Snow Leopard
5. The Rehearsal
6. Lagoon
7. Solo Faces
8. Breath
9. The Internet is Not the Answer
10. A Sport and a Past Time
11. White Teeth
12. The Bell Jar
13. The Invisible Man
14. The Subtle Knife
15 Consider Phlebas
16. The Amber Spyglass
17. The Liar's Key
18. 1000 Splendid Suns
19. The Windup Girl
20. Fire Colour One
21. The Player of Games
22. The Buddha of Suburbia
23. Prince of Thorns
24. King of Thorns
25. Emperor of Thorns
26. Oryx and Crake
27. Use of Weapons
28. The long way to a small angry planet
29. Heart goes last
30. Generation A
31. The Medium is the Message
32. Them
33. The psychopath test
34. Essentialism
35. Signs at the End of the World
36. The Wasp Factory
37. Sapiens
38. Lost Spaces

39. What Money Can't Buy
40. Seveneves

41. Flowers for Algernon

 

40. Seveneves

 

So, Seveneves is a book by Neal Stephenson which means that I am going to have trouble summarising it, as it's sort of about a lot of things. The novel starts with the Moon being destroyed - no one is sure how or why - which leads to a lot of meteorites and debris, all of which will, after 2 years, be drawn into Earth and basically destroy everything and heat everything up. Desperately the leadership of Earth try to create a SpaceArk, however with current technology (novel is set roughly around now) it becomes apparent that technology really isn't capable of sustaining human life in space.

 

Problems occur, the planet starts to die and eventually only 7 humans are left: the seven eves. Fortunately one is a geneticist and has found a way for women to be impregnated without sperm. Each woman wants to use this method to basically create slightly different humans.

 

Fast forward 5000 years and there are 7 distinct races, which differ not just in looks but also very much in disposition - society is fragmented, though also co-operative.

 

The novel ends with Earth beginning to be re-populated, though not without some serious dramas and unexpected turns.

 

So this is a hard SF book - there's a LOT about gravity, space debris, genetics, technology and robotics. A lot. All of it (from what I can tell and have read) comes from the author not only working as a scientist but also researching over 10 years to make sure that the novel is actually written about cutting edge technology and theory.

 

I really enjoyed it, though it was a bit slow to get going. It is not what I expected, though it is not unconventional as a SF book.

 

41. Flowers for Algernon

 

Fuck this book was good. Charlie is a mentally retarded adult who is picked up by some scientists for a trial of a treatment that might make him intelligent. It works and he quickly becomes above average in terms of his intelligence. This is not all positive as he realises a lot of his friends have been making fun of him, his parents struggled and resented him, and that few people considered him a person before his operation.

 

As he gains intelligence Algernon, the test mouse for whom the treatment was first trialled, begins to unravel: struggling, trying to kill himself and eventually becoming stupid again. Charlie must now face the truth: that he will recede into his old self.

 

This book is an incredibly sad story - very few characters are happy or healthy, and there are so many brutal truths contained within the writing. It's a 60 year old book that is still incredibly relevant.


Edited by LonerMatt - 8/26/16 at 1:58pm
post #3155 of 3181
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
0. Asterix and the Missing Scroll
1. The Whisperer
2. The Vanished Ones
3. Quarterly Essay: Political Amnesia
4. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
5. The Lost Girls of Rome
6. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
7. Never Mind
8. The Vegetarian
9. Man on Fire
10. Comfort Zone
11. The Invisible man From Salem
12. Red Light
13. Balancing Act
14. Crimea: The Last Crusade
15. Misterioso
16. The Lost Sailors
17. Black Run
18. The Natural Way of Things
19. Piano Lessons
20. Pedigree
21. Sing Fox To Me
22. Mister Roberts
23. Talking To My Country
24. The Bricks That Built the Houses
25. Oblivion
26. The Sixth Extinction
27. The Cruel Stars of the Night
28. Normal
29. The Shepherd's Crown
30. Vixen
31. The Heart Goes Last
32. Firing Line: Australia's Path to War
33. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
34. Fever of Animals
35. Our Souls at Night

36. Thermopylae: The Battle for the West
Thermopylae: The Battle for the WestThermopylae: The Battle for the West by Ernle Dusgate Selby Bradford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a really interesting read that tells the story of Xerxes' crossing of the Hellespont and the invasion of Greece by the Persian empire. The battles of Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea are described with great immediacy.

Bradford probably over-eggs the pudding by claiming that the 300 Spartans under Leonidas saved Western democracy. There is no way of knowing, after all, what the course of history would have been had Xerxes won in Greece. Perhaps his progress may have been halted elsewhere; every day his army got further from home and into more unknown territory.

Bradford does a good job of introducing some balance into the works of the ancient historians such as Plutarch and Herodotus, but he has quirks of his own. Far too often for comfort, he drops snide remarks about modern Greeks, women and a variety of other quite irrelevant comment. This is not helped by poor editing - words are italicised in random fashion, obviously wrong dates appear, and so on. Bradford's dubious attitudes, combined with this poor editing, take a lot of the gloss off this book.


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post #3156 of 3181
Just found out about this thread. Ironically, had set a read 50 books challenge for myself at the start of the year. Started out strong but have been very unproductive on the reading front for a couple months. Will be contributing going forward.
post #3157 of 3181
67. The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour- The Frontier Stories, v.3

A large collection of Western short stories, all of which I enjoyed. However, I noticed quite a few more that I'd read before than in the other two volumes.

4 books to go...
post #3158 of 3181
Hello, thread...

So I just got married, and subsequently, lost all interest in activities that can't be shared.

I have managed to re-read Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters, which, from my new perspective, is not only technically dazzling, but entirely heartbreaking. There's this one poem -- where he recounts an early meeting with his late wife, then years later, comes across her own retelling from an unearthed journal -- where I just lost it. And then there's all the rest.

It's amazing.

#1
post #3159 of 3181
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
0. Asterix and the Missing Scroll
1. The Whisperer
2. The Vanished Ones
3. Quarterly Essay: Political Amnesia
4. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
5. The Lost Girls of Rome
6. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
7. Never Mind
8. The Vegetarian
9. Man on Fire
10. Comfort Zone
11. The Invisible man From Salem
12. Red Light
13. Balancing Act
14. Crimea: The Last Crusade
15. Misterioso
16. The Lost Sailors
17. Black Run
18. The Natural Way of Things
19. Piano Lessons
20. Pedigree
21. Sing Fox To Me
22. Mister Roberts
23. Talking To My Country
24. The Bricks That Built the Houses
25. Oblivion
26. The Sixth Extinction
27. The Cruel Stars of the Night
28. Normal
29. The Shepherd's Crown
30. Vixen
31. The Heart Goes Last
32. Firing Line: Australia's Path to War
33. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
34. Fever of Animals
35. Our Souls at Night
36. Thermopylae: The Battle for the West

37. She Will Build Him a City
She Will Build Him a CityShe Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Raj Kamal Jha's novel is set in New Delhi, and intertwines three stories set in that city: a woman talking to her sleeping child about their shared past, a man contemplating murder, and a baby abandoned at an orphanage.

Jha seeks to blend his realist narrative with fantasy elements, especially in the baby's story. This is clunky at times, and I don't think it really works.

For more than half of this novel, I found it confusing and hard to follow. It took me a long time to find its rhythm and get into it. By the end I found it quite satisfying, but I would have rated it higher were the journey a bit less confusing.



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post #3160 of 3181
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. Hicksville
2. Slaughterhouse 5
3. Firefight
4. Snow Leopard
5. The Rehearsal
6. Lagoon
7. Solo Faces
8. Breath
9. The Internet is Not the Answer
10. A Sport and a Past Time
11. White Teeth
12. The Bell Jar
13. The Invisible Man
14. The Subtle Knife
15 Consider Phlebas
16. The Amber Spyglass
17. The Liar's Key
18. 1000 Splendid Suns
19. The Windup Girl
20. Fire Colour One
21. The Player of Games
22. The Buddha of Suburbia
23. Prince of Thorns
24. King of Thorns
25. Emperor of Thorns
26. Oryx and Crake
27. Use of Weapons
28. The long way to a small angry planet
29. Heart goes last
30. Generation A
31. The Medium is the Message
32. Them
33. The psychopath test
34. Essentialism
35. Signs at the End of the World
36. The Wasp Factory
37. Sapiens
38. Lost Spaces

39. What Money Can't Buy
40. Seveneves

41. Flowers for Algernon

42. A Crown of Cold Silver

 

42. A Crown of Cold Silver

 

This was a pretty cool spin on a typical fantasy novel. 30 years before the story a band of rebels led by 5 criminals over-throw a government and then back away from the responsibility. The story opens with the leader, who has deliberately hermited herself away. Unfortunately, the town she is living in finds itself at the hands of a massacre, which prompts her to try to avenge her friends and family.

 

However, things are much more complex: she isn't strong, powerful, or connected anymore, and many people who were for her are now against. For some of the other characters their past's are coming back to haunt them, and for others they are trying to forge their own present. It's a bit like Old Man and The Sea meets gritty fantasy. There's an interesting system of magic that's not relied upon or over-used at all, and a few good twists.

 

The writing was pretty good, especially for fantasy, it wasn't tired, sarcastic or snide - and maintained a good pace between a variety of standpoints.

 

Will read the sequel when it's not overpriced hardback.

post #3161 of 3181
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
0. Asterix and the Missing Scroll
1. The Whisperer
2. The Vanished Ones
3. Quarterly Essay: Political Amnesia
4. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
5. The Lost Girls of Rome
6. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
7. Never Mind
8. The Vegetarian
9. Man on Fire
10. Comfort Zone
11. The Invisible man From Salem
12. Red Light
13. Balancing Act
14. Crimea: The Last Crusade
15. Misterioso
16. The Lost Sailors
17. Black Run
18. The Natural Way of Things
19. Piano Lessons
20. Pedigree
21. Sing Fox To Me
22. Mister Roberts
23. Talking To My Country
24. The Bricks That Built the Houses
25. Oblivion
26. The Sixth Extinction
27. The Cruel Stars of the Night
28. Normal
29. The Shepherd's Crown
30. Vixen
31. The Heart Goes Last
32. Firing Line: Australia's Path to War
33. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
34. Fever of Animals
35. Our Souls at Night
36. Thermopylae: The Battle for the West
37. She Will Build Him a City

38. Quota
QuotaQuota by Jock Serong

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jock Serong's first novel won the Ned Kelly Award, Australia's top crime fiction award, so he is clearly one for crime fans to watch.

Dissolute lawyer Charlie Jardim is thrown a lifeline by a prosecutor and sent down to a small fishing town to interview a witness to a murder; the witness's story does not appear credible. While trying to get to the facts, Charlie encounters a hostile and uncooperative local community whose leading lights are the parents of the accused.

This is quite a good novel. It is engagingly told, and Charlie is a protagonist the reader can identify with. There's a few good plot twists, especially once we get to the trial, but I thought maybe not quite enough - another twist or two would have been welcome. A few of the characters were underdeveloped, and some were unimaginative Aussie stereotype characters. Still, this is a good start for Serong, who is definitely worth another try.


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post #3162 of 3181
42 The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes A metaphysical mystery thriller about the end of the world and the second coming of JC? Or is it? Featuring John Milton, William Blake, Jack the Ripper and computer programer with a Christ complex who is working to prevent Y2K. It crosses four centuries and while laborious at times its an interesting read. The JTR sequences are not for the faint hearted and it also features an evil Homunculus with his own agenda.

Not your average story but good mix of historical and metaphysical fact and fiction which is imaginative in context and ideas. A good way to bid farewell to the dark of winter and emerge into the New Jerusalem of Spring.
post #3163 of 3181
43 HYSTOPIA by David Means This is a very violent and strange book. JFK is in his third term. The Vietnam war is raging and though the use of a drug Tripizoid and psycho drama called enfolding Vietnam vets are cured of their PTSD or are they and at what cost? It is also a book within a book. Overall a very odd disturbing and wild ride. Iggy and Stooges feature prominently in the narrative and the state of Michigan is turned into a free range psychiatric ward. To quote " What a long strange trip its been" indeed.

Last night went to the NPG to hear Robert Foster, former Go Between, talk about his new book. Interesting and entertaining both from a historical and cultural perspective but also in terms of the writing process. He also played a couple of songs including Cattle and Cane and spoke about how it was written and the impact it had on his song writing. Thankfully Mrs GF is preoccupied with another Bosch novel so I can start reading the book over the weekend.
post #3164 of 3181
Whoah, that sounds like quite a departure for David Means...

I really enjoyed his (three?) books of short stories, all very naturalistic, but with elegant, crackling prose.
post #3165 of 3181
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. Hicksville
2. Slaughterhouse 5
3. Firefight
4. Snow Leopard
5. The Rehearsal
6. Lagoon
7. Solo Faces
8. Breath
9. The Internet is Not the Answer
10. A Sport and a Past Time
11. White Teeth
12. The Bell Jar
13. The Invisible Man
14. The Subtle Knife
15 Consider Phlebas
16. The Amber Spyglass
17. The Liar's Key
18. 1000 Splendid Suns
19. The Windup Girl
20. Fire Colour One
21. The Player of Games
22. The Buddha of Suburbia
23. Prince of Thorns
24. King of Thorns
25. Emperor of Thorns
26. Oryx and Crake
27. Use of Weapons
28. The long way to a small angry planet
29. Heart goes last
30. Generation A
31. The Medium is the Message
32. Them
33. The psychopath test
34. Essentialism
35. Signs at the End of the World
36. The Wasp Factory
37. Sapiens
38. Lost Spaces
39. What Money Can't Buy
40. Seveneves
41. Flowers for Algernon
42. A Crown of Cold Silver
43. Central Station

43. Central Station

This novel centers around Central Station - a building in Israel where people arrive from, and leave to, Space. The novel follows several members of a family as a prodigal son-like character arrives home after many decades abroad. There are several key characters: a data vampire, a luddite, an Oracle, a mother and a cyborg veteran and his girl. Ostensibly each of these story arcs is interesting - there's ingenuity, grit and emotion within each story arc.

Yet the writing doesn't really deliver for me - each arc is OK, but also sort of confusing and unnecessary - things fold in on each other and overlap in ways that seem forced and dull. The references and lingo are forced and, I think, confusing. There's an invented language that slows dialogue down completely and a lot of over-narration.

There are some great ideas here, but I think the novel would have worked much better as a collection of 6-7 short stories that were not trying to be unified or connected.
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